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Suid alphaherpesvirus 1 of wild boar origin as a recent source of Aujeszky’s disease in carnivores in Germany

Background

The high susceptibility of carnivores to Suid Alphaherpesvirus 1 [SuAHV1, synonymous pseudorabies virus (PrV)], renders them inadvertent sentinels for the possible occurrence of Aujeszky’s disease (AD) in domestic and wild swine populations. The aim of this study was to epidemiologically analyse the occurrence of PrV infections in domestic and wild animals in Germany during the last three decades and to genetically characterise the causative PrV isolates.

Methods

PrV in dogs was detected using standard virological techniques including conventional and real time PCR, virus isolation or by immunohistochemistry. Available PrV isolates were characterized by partial sequencing of the open gC reading frame and the genetic traits were compared with those of archived PrV isolates from carnivores and domestic pigs from Germany before the elimination of AD in the domestic pig population.

Results

During 1995 and 2022, a total of 38 cases of AD in carnivores, e.g. dogs and red foxes, were laboratory confirmed. Sequencing and subsequent phylogenetic analysis of PrV isolates established a strong connection between AD cases in carnivores and the occurrence of PrV infections in European wild boars in the end phase of and after elimination of AD from the domestic pig population. While PrV infections occur at low numbers but regularly in hunting dogs, interestingly, PrV was not observed in grey wolves in Germany. In none of 682 dead-found grey wolves and wolf-dog hybrids tested from Germany during 2006–2022 could PrV infection be detected by molecular means.

Conclusions

Although PrV has been eliminated from domestic pigs, spillover infections in domestic and wild carnivores should always be expected given the endemic presence of PrV in wild pig populations. Since detection of PrV DNA and virus in carnivores is sporadic even in areas with high seroprevalence of PrV in wild pigs, it may not reflect the full diversity of PrV.

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